You need a virtual reality headset to play Half-Life: Alyx. For now.
But PC games end up in places that are often very far from where they began, and no one knows this better than Valve’s Robin Walker. Walker co-created the original Team Fortress mod for Quake, before working on Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike for Valve, as well as many of the Half-Life releases).
He’s keenly aware that someone out there, right now, is likely working very hard to modify a version of Half-Life: Alyx that can be played on a standard screen, with a mouse and keyboard.
“I know it’s going to happen,” Walker told Polygon. The bigger question is what the fans will think of this ported version of the game.
The grand experiment
It’s strange admitting that a game designed to be played in one very specific way may soon be played in a manner never intended, and I was curious if Walker, or anyone at Valve, was worried about the idea of someone modding the game in this way.
“The answer to this diverges significantly depending on which members of the team you talk to, so this answer is definitely just from me,” Walker explained. “There are a set of people on the team that are concerned about that. Personally, I’m not concerned about it at all.” The reason is pretty simple: The game just wouldn’t be much fun as a standard release.
“It will clearly demonstrate to people why we did this in VR,” Walker said. “It will be a very crisp way of seeing all the stuff we got for the move into VR. If people play [a modded version on a standard display] and say this is is just as good, that will teach me a lot. I will realize I’m wrong, and we didn’t get as much as we thought, and I love to know whenever I’m wrong.”
The first areas in the game, in fact, introduce a handgun, some barnacles, and some head crabs, along with a few rooms of interactive objects. It’s all there to teach the player how the controls and combat will work in VR by giving them a way to play around and learn how to interact with the world.
They’re engrossing areas of the game when played in VR, because learning how to manually reload your weapon is much more fun with a hand-tracking controller than just pressing a button, but they would be boring as hell if played as a standard non-VR game in which the same action only required a button press.
The magic lies in being inside the world, being able to touch it, and interact with it, directly. The game’s design and pacing would lose all meaning if played as a standard game, even if more players would be able to experience the story for its own sake.
“Yes, it’s going to happen. I’m fine with it, for the sake of the other members of the team I don’t want to say I encourage you to do it, but it’s going to happen,” Walker said. “I think people will then hopefully have an even greater understanding of why we decided to build the product in VR than they do now.”
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